[ART REVIEW] The Bathhouse Show in Tokyo Japan

text by Yuki Kikuchi

I met Dorothy at the first ever Hunx and His Punx show here in Tokyo. After the gig we found our way to a local bar where we bonded over beers, and Dorothy spilt her heart out about losing touch with good friends and her anxieties about what the future held. Her earnestness in that moment made me aware of the difficulties of leaving home and living alone in a foreign country - especially while trying to follow one’s dreams.

That was already two years ago now.

After a time she became friends with gallerist Ella Krivanek, who came from Australia to work in Japan.  During her time in Tokyo, Ella established a non-profit, contemporary art gallery, Space Space, while Dorothy worked as an artist and writer for Wooly Magazine. Combining their efforts, they spent nearly half a year planning The Bathhouse show: a one-night event combining music and art, held in an abandoned bathhouse scheduled for demolition. They transformed the huge building for the event. The first floor, which was previously the public bathhouse, became a space for bands to play and the dilapidated apartments above became an art gallery.

Their event captured that indefinable something that makes Japan “cool”, which we as Japanese tend overlook because it has become part of our everyday. Everyone at the show existed within the same chaotic moment, sharing a sense of excitement created by the tense juxtaposition of the casual atmosphere characteristic to Americans and Australians, and a brittle anxiety brought on by Japan’s deep sense of social order.  

The bands that performed on that night, and the art in the apartments above were of course spectacular. Playing their foreignness to their advantage, Ella and Dorothy were able to bring out a huge variety of people.

The bathhouse was torn down the next day. There is nothing left of it now. Ella returned to Australia the following month, and Dorothy to America soon after. I have no idea when they will have their next event here in Japan.

The only thing that I can be sure of is that the event was poignantly moving. It had the ephemeral beauty of a firework, which sparks with acute exhilaration, then drifts into darkness, leaving behind a bittersweet feeling. Ella and Dorothy worked hard to create something new, something that isn’t definable yet…

Thanks to their efforts, I feel that on that day I glimpsed what true art really is. What does it take to bring in a new era? Is it technology, talent, or could it be money?

I have always believed that it is passion.